Iranian filmmaker and Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi is one of the finest directors to grace the film industry. He has always had a knack of portraying and surprising us with his characters and their stories. Always one for family or marital drama, Farhadi is best known for “A Separation” and “The Past.” And with such a great track record, it’s honestly a wonder why “Fireworks Wednesday” has taken ten years to be released after premiering at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2006. So natural you’ll forget you’re watching a film, “Fireworks Wednesday” works on many levels, ingraining all of its characters with seeds of doubt that deliberately move the story and create sympathy for all involved.
From a western perspective, films made in Hollywood that take place outside of the United States are obviously skewed. Our perception of the outside world is limited and tainted by our own warped views of other cultures and countries. Watching foreign films is always a pleasure, if only to be able to be a part of a world and completely immersed in its ways without having to step foot outside. It’s a way to be able to be a part of another culture, so to speak, without self-inserting ourselves into it. This ability has always been one of Farhadi’s strengths. He brings such a human simplicity and perspective to his films. And even with all the noise and background distractions of everyday lives passing by, the focus and intent to bring us something so emotionally raw and mesmerizing is a true talent.
Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti) is a free-spirited young woman engaged to be married. To make some money, she picks up a cleaning job a bit far from her home. Getting there, she finds the apartment packed up, a window broken, and her employer, Mozhde (Hediyeh Tehrani), unhappy with her presence. What Rouhi doesn’t realize is that she’s just walked into a marital dispute that looks more like a war zone of emotions and turmoil. Caught in the midst of it all, Rouhi is the uncomfortable bystander to a problem she finds herself suddenly involved in.
Mozhde is convinced there’s something amiss with her husband, Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad). All the mysterious phone calls and the strange perfume on his clothes lead to one conclusion: Mozhde believes Morteza is cheating on her with their divorced neighbor, Simin (Pantea Bahram), and she won’t back down until she finds the truth. The film hinges on the mystery of whether or not Morteza is actually committing infidelity and the development towards this realization is what keeps up the suspense and character interactions so wonderfully heightened.
Farhadi excels here at movement in particular. The characters move around. A lot. And setting these scenes up to look so natural is no easy task, but Farhadi does so with flourish. Movement and background noise–from fireworks going off, to the everyday street hubbub, to phones ringing–become like a loving blanket for the characters and plot. Instead of being distracting, it only adds to the narrative and turns a laser-like focus toward the central characters.
Usually, films shelved for so long often means that they didn’t turn out particularly well, but this is certainly not the case for “Fireworks Wednesday.” It isn’t Farhadi’s finest work, but between the characters driving the story, the mystery, and the glimpse into the Iranian way of life, Farhadi brings an organic, sympathetic, and humanistic take on themes that have long been explored.
"Fireworks Wednesday" brings an organic, sympathetic, and humanistic take on themes that have long been explored.